Analyzing Post-Maryland Reactions For Penn State Football

Another day, another week of Penn State Football going 1-0.

After struggling against Ohio State and Indiana, the Nittany Lions ran all over Maryland in SECU Stadium Saturday en route to a 51-15 victory. Despite the dominant performance, Penn State fans still had plenty to complain about. Our football writers broke down the hottest takes from Penn State’s latest win over the Terrapins.

Drew Allar Is So Freaking Back

Joe Lister: One (me) could make the argument that Drew Allar was back as soon as he threw that touchdown pass to KeAndre Lambert-Smith to win the Indiana game. My roommates won’t listen to me, though.

Allar is back, though. Even if you skip over that touchdown pass (you shouldn’t), he just looked so ready to play against Maryland. His yardage wasn’t shocking, but 240 yards and four touchdowns through the air is nothing to turn your nose up at. Plus, his completion percentage of 73.5 against the Terps was his best of the season. Allar’s slowly but surely figuring out his own development.

Nolan Wick: Drew Allar threw 240 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions, and had a 73.5% completion rate against Maryland. While he threw for more yards against West Virginia and had a higher completion rate against Delaware, this was his most complete game as a Penn State quarterback because everything came together at once. 

Allar looked comfortable the whole game, and he said as much afterward. After three shaky outings on the road, his latest performance in College Park is an encouraging sign that he’s developing into the guy Penn State needs him to be, especially with Michigan looming on Saturday. If he can put up similar numbers against the Wolverines, things could get quite interesting.

CJ Doebler: I would hesitate to say he went away in the first place. Yes, Drew Allar burst onto the scene with a 325-yard performance and hasn’t come close to that number since, but he’s been solid in the pocket. James Franklin didn’t ask Allar to do too much throughout the middle of the season, and the shortcomings at the wide receiver position only became evident after Ohio State when Allar started to air the ball out to no avail.

After his game-winning toss against Indiana a week ago, Allar was trusted to take shots on Saturday and ended with four touchdown passes on 240 yards against Maryland in his best performance since the season opener. The performance came at the perfect time, however, and Allar should ride the momentum into the matchup with the Wolverines this weekend.

Dante Cephas Is Going To Save Penn State’s Wide Receiving Corps

Joe Lister: I became a massive Dante Cephas advocate over the weekend, but even I’m not sure that Cephas is the solution to Penn State’s problems. Realistically, he’s probably a Band-Aid to the open wound that is Penn State’s wide receiver unit. He’s a great second option at the position (and possibly a better one than Trey Wallace), but none of that matters if Wallace is still injured. The Nittany Lions will still be stuck with two receivers, and as good as the tight ends are, that’s a mess waiting to happen against Michigan.

Nolan Wick: Dante Cephas had a nice outing in the DMV with 53 receiving yards and two touchdowns, and there’s reason to believe he’s finally figured it out. He’s the most experienced wide receiver on the roster as a redshirt senior, and he put up great numbers at Kent State before coming to Happy Valley.

As James Franklin said last week, sometimes it takes time for players to find their footing, especially transfers. In Penn State’s offense, it makes all the more sense. With Trey Wallace likely out for the foreseeable future and the team entering the last fourth of its regular-season schedule, the timing is certainly ideal for Cephas to build off last week’s performance.

CJ Doebler: Dante Cephas was another player who came into his own at the perfect time on Saturday. Cephas was expected to play a heavy role in the passing game before the season started but only caught 11 balls for 146 yards prior to Maryland.

With Trey Wallace out again, Franklin tested a multitude of different receiver pairings, and Cephas stepped up with 53 yards and two touchdown passes during the blowout win. Cephas provided a spark that the receivers desperately needed going into this weekend, but a Terrapin is a different animal than a Wolverine.

Penn State Still Can’t Beat Michigan

Joe Lister: My official stance on Michigan this week is “no comment.” I don’t want to predict a score. I don’t want to predict a winner. I don’t want to say anything. Ohio State scarred me.

Anybody can win.

Nolan Wick: Let’s start with the facts. James Franklin has beaten Michigan three times. Saturday will be the biggest test the Wolverines have faced thus far, as playing Penn State at Beaver Stadium is going to be a much different animal than anything else they’ve experienced this season. Statistically, though, Michigan is the better team.

CJ Doebler: Before Maryland, my answer was yes. After Maryland, my answer is “maybe?”

Penn State should be coming into this weekend with a ton of momentum, and since Michigan is going through some stuff right now, it seems like the perfect chance for the Nittany Lions to break through and pull off the upset. Franklin and Mike Yurcich need to continue the playcalling style that was shown against Maryland. I’m not advocating for KeAndre Lambert-Smith to throw again, but I’d like to see Allar and Beau Pribula together again along with variety in the run-to-pass ratio.

The Nittany Lions Don’t Actually Need Chop Robinson

Joe Lister: If you had just watched Penn State tear apart the Maryland offensive line Saturday, you’d say that Chop Robinson couldn’t have been that big a deal. But if you’ve been watching Robinson, you’d know how much of a game-changer he is. Penn State may have recorded six sacks and 12 tackles for loss against the Terps, but that’s just because Maryland isn’t that great at protecting Taulia Tagovailoa. If the Nittany Lions want to create problems for JJ McCarthy on Saturday, Robinson will probably need to be a big part of that effort.

Nolan Wick: He wasn’t needed against Maryland, but he will be against Michigan. Robinson is such a force on the field, as his 6’3,” 254-pound frame alone is probably enough to intimidate opponents. He’s backed that up with three sacks, which is tied for second on the team, and a forced fumble this season.

When Robinson and fellow defensive end Adisa Isaac are sharing the field, it’s a nightmare for opposing offenses. It almost puts opponents in a “pick your poison” situation, as each one has proven capable of blowing up plays. The more these two are playing, the better. Fortunately for Penn State, James Franklin hinted Robinson might be back on Saturday.

CJ Doebler: The Nittany Lions proved they don’t need him, but against Michigan, they’d sure like to have him. The defense took a lot of heat a week ago when they gave up 24 points to Indiana and many believed Chop Robinson’s absence was part of Manny Diaz’s group’s struggles.

This week, the defensive line allowed -49 rushing yards, sacked Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa six times, and recorded 12 tackles for loss. Maryland’s offensive line, however, is not Michigan’s. The 41-17 rout that Penn State experienced a year ago was largely due to the mismatch in the trenches that allowed Michigan’s run game to go wild. Franklin believes that his front seven have put on weight and are much better equipped to handle the Michigan offensive line, but having future NFL talent in Robinson back on the line would be huge for the Nittany Lions.

This Was OC Mike Yurcich’s Best Game Of The Season

Joe Lister: Hey, Beau Pribula played! It’s difficult to say just how good offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich did against Maryland since Maryland’s defense didn’t exactly put up much of a fight. Still, I like to think that a pretty good day of playcalling is one that you don’t notice. There weren’t any egregious errors, and for the most part, Yurcich kept it simple. Still, it’s pretty easy to do that when your opponent is letting move the ball an average of 5.3 yards each play.

Nolan Wick: It was definitely up there. Mike Yurcich and the coaching staff knew what Maryland’s defense was going to bring to the table with its cover zero-heavy play style, and they took complete advantage of that with their play-calling. As a result, Penn State put up 51 points and 404 offensive yards. I’ll take that any day of the week.

CJ Doebler: Absolutely. I don’t know how to evaluate Yurcich at this point. In one game, the offense can’t do anything on the heels of constant runs and short passes and the next they’re running two-quarterback packages in the red zone. Yurcich’s playcalling has been pretty bland all year long, and it was nice to see a well-designed play run to perfection for what was probably the most exciting Penn State touchdown we’ve seen all season. Yurcich also struck a balance between taking deep shots and relying on the run to get ahead of schedule on first and second down. Playcalling was pretty bad in Penn State’s last big game against Ohio State, and Yurcich needs to continue to coach like he did last week when Michigan comes to town this Saturday.

Kalen King Hasn’t Looked The Same Since Ohio State

Joe Lister: For a guy who’s supposed to be one of the best defensive backs in the country, Kalen King certainly hasn’t looked the part over the last few games. Really, it looks like Marvin Harrison Jr. traumatized the Detroit native, and King hasn’t been able to recover. Ideally, the Maryland game would be a tone-setter for King as it was with the rest of the team, but Penn State’s pass defense struggled against the Terps. King himself got mossed two minutes into the second quarter on what appeared to just be lazy pass coverage. Maybe he did enough to get back on track for Michigan, but I’m not an optimist.

Nolan Wick: Penn State’s secondary as a whole didn’t look good against Maryland, as Taulia Tagovailoa’s 286 passing yards were his most since playing Indiana on September 30. This would’ve been the perfect time for Kalen King to step up and make a play, but he wasn’t much of a factor in the game. It does seem like Marvin Harrison Jr. might’ve affected him beyond that Ohio State game, but King wasn’t heavily involved against Indiana a week later, either. If the Detroit native can’t find his form against Michigan on Saturday, it could be a long afternoon against its good receiver room.

CJ Doebler: I think the Kalen King hype took a dramatic hit when he had trouble guarding Marvin Harrison Jr. Once teams saw that King was beatable, they started throwing the ball his way more often. King got beat a few times against Indiana, and the cornerbacks as a whole were graded pretty low against Maryland. King was touted as a first-round prospect for much of the year, but the last three games certainly haven’t helped his draft stock.

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